Tag Archive | "Iraq"

Loss of Culture: Can laws prevent the destruction of antiquities?  

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” – Elie Wiesel

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ISIS fighters destroy antiquities in Iraq. Courtesy of Chicago Tonight. hicagotonight.wttw.com/2015/03/10/destruction-antiquities-iraq

Over the course of human history, great and mighty civilizations have emerged, such as the Romans and Aztecs,
only to fall to plague, pestilence or conquest. However, the lasting effects of these civilizations are the archaeological sites and artifacts left behind. Artifacts, like the Rosetta Stone, the Terra Cotta Army, and the David, and ancient ruins, like Machu Picchu, the Coliseum, and the Great Wall of China, give the world insight into how ancient civilizations lived, and contribute to the future development of the human race. Through the discovery and preservation of artifacts such as these, the human race can continue to preserve ancient cultures and ensure that they may help shape the future of humanity.

Recent world events show a lack of regard for preserving these jewels of the past in the 21st century.  For example, the world was recently shocked by Islamic State’s destruction of ancient artifacts and archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq. This is not unprecedented, however, as this type of destruction happens all over the world; not just in the Middle East, but in South America, and China, and is attributable to numerous causes, including urban development and war.

The international community has attempted to ensure the integrity of the world’s cultural sites through the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and two international treaties: the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Culture and Natural Heritage, also knows the 1972 World Heritage Convention, created the World Heritage List allowing for archeological sites of “outstanding universal value” to be placed on a list that tries to keep the sites protected. For example, the Statute of Liberty, the Tower of London, and the city of Venice are just some of the sites on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage List also includes cites that are in danger, such as the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls.

Although these safe guards ensure archaeological sites and artifacts are recognized, and the conventions include sanctions which deter member States from breaching the conventions, it is the sovereign duty of each State to ensure that its archeological sites are protected. It is also the duty of each State to bring charges against parties that destroy or harm archaeological sites. In some cases, when a State does nothing to protect a site, or does not punish parties who destroy artifacts, the archeological artifact can be lost forever. Even though state parties to the above-mentioned treaties agree to protect their antiquities, the international community does not enforce its sanctions provisions against states who fail to protect. As of yet, no State has been brought before the International Court of Justice for a lack of protection. For example, China did little to protect artifacts when construction for an IKEA store unearthed an ancient tomb. Although China imposes a fine on companies who destroying ancient tombs, it does not enforce these law strongly, and as a result, an irreplaceable piece of history has been lost. The larger issue is that China was not brought before the ICJ for failure to protect in this case.

The larger issue is that state sovereignty protects most state decisions regarding antiquities. Also, under the treaty, only a State Party may bring a suit against another State Party for violation of a treaty or convention provision. Thus, the principally affected shareholders, like the existing Mayan populations in Belize whose ancestor’s pyramids were destroyed, have no avenue by which to make the State answer for its lack of protection. In most cases, States are able to pressure principally affected stakeholders into forgoing a public fight, likely due to lack of enforcement by the international community. For example, the 1972 World Heritage Convention only asks Party States to “endeavor, in so far as possible” to protect the culture of the State. These archeological sites and artifacts are the backbone of ancient civilizations, and in essence are owned by the people of the State and the existing decedents of those civilizations. Yet, principally affected stakeholder have no recourse to stop the destruction.

So what can be done?

A model that States can follow to ensure preservation of archeological sites and artifacts is that of the United States. The United States strives to ensure the rights to cultural sites and artifacts are given to decedents of the creating civilization. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of November 16, 1990 gives the right of ownership over human remains and sacred objects to Native American tribes, after certain requirements are met, such as showing a relationship of lineal descent. Likewise, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 protects the archaeological sites and resources of Native American lands. If other States follow a similar model as that of the United States, then the archeological sites and artifacts have a better chance of survival. Even if a State does everything to try and curb the destruction of archeological sites and artifacts, once destruction has occurred, the history, the memory, the civilizations are lost forever.

Teresa Milligan is a 2L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is Editor in Chief for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Teresa MilliganComments (0)

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

Critical Analysis: Will al-Qaeda Rejoin Forces with ISIS?

by Casey Smartt, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

October 14, 2014

 

By now, most, if not all, world leaders have taken notice of the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”). Currently, 14 nations have joined the United States’ fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. However, al-Qaeda still maintains a strong presence in the Middle East. As such, how plausible is a nightmare scenario where the two previously affiliated groups join forces?

To answer this question, one must understand the origins of ISIS. In October 2004, Abu Masab al-Zarqawi and his militant group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist group, al-Qaeda. In doing so, they became known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (“AQI”). In the 2006 surge, US troops claimed defeat over AQI because they killed al-Zarqawi. However, in 2011, AQI rebooted as ISIS and slowly but surely, began rebuilding its ranks. But, ISIS’ relationship with al-Qaeda began to deteriorate because of ISIS’ brutality against civilians. Further, ISIS, now ruled by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ignored al-Qaeda’s leader’s, Ayman al-Zawahiri, commands to stop expanding into the Syrian civil war during the Spring of 2013. Not only did ISIS defy orders, they also began attacking al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. This aggressive act of defiance led al-Zawahiri to officially sever ties with ISIS in February 2014.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi contested Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s ruling and the group continued to operate in Syria. Photo credit: AFP through Al Arabiya News.

 

Nevertheless, the international response to ISIS’ merciless rampage through Iraq and Syria has given the former allies a reason to once again join forces. This is because the U.S. airstrikes have supposedly targeted al-Nusra forces. This has given al-Qaeda a strong incentive to team with ISIS. Moreover, a number of fighters from other Islamist groups are defecting to ISIS because it is now seen as more capable of creating an Islamic State. Thus, al-Qaeda could be forced to adopt the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. An al-Nusra spokesperson, Abu Firas al-Suri has already spoken out against the airstrikes, stating “This is not a war against al-Nusra, but a war against Islam.” ISIS also has a strong incentive to make a deal with al-Qaeda because air strikes are slowly crippling their resources. ISIS and al-Nusra have already formed a brief alliance in the takeover of Arsal, a small town that sits alongside the Lebanese-Syrian border. ISIS and al-Nusra fighters captured a number of Lebanese policemen and soldiers. A video released by the Nusra Front shows an al-Nusra fighter shooting a Lebanese soldier in the head, while another begs Hezbollah to leave Syria. Other images purportedly showed the beheading of another Lebanese soldier. This is a preview of what would happen if al-Qaeda with its funding resources teamed up with the super-organized ISIS fighters.

 

However, an actual alliance between al-Qaeda and ISIS is unlikely to happen. This is because any formal agreement made by al-Qaeda would require the approval of its leader, al-Zawahiri. He is a staunch critic of ISIS. In 2005, al-Zawahiri wrote a letter that accused ISIS’ brutal tactics, then AQI, of damaging al-Qaeda’s image among potential Muslim recruits. Further, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, told The World Post “Baghdadi’s demand to be recognized as Caliph is simply too much for al-Qaeda.” It appears that any “team effort” by al-Qaeda and ISIS will be done in a smaller capacity, such as an al-Qaeda affiliate coordinating with ISIS.  Thus, the nightmare scenario, while possible, has too many political hurdles to pose a significant threat.

Casey Smartt is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Cite & Source Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

Uncertainty of U.S. Government Intervention over ISIS

One of the predominant issues in recent world news has been the current actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the tensions that the U.S. and Syria now face in response to those actions.  The issue is not new, especially since the ISIS group has prospered since U.S. troops left the Syria and Iraq region in 2011, but the conflict has been escalating this year to a breaking point.  This article will explain the origins of ISIS, detail the current state of affairs in Syria and Iraq, and explain the current political struggle the U.S. has in addressing this threat, including the legal implications of taking action against the group in Syria.

As background, the Islamic State in Iraq was created by Abu Ayybu al-Masri in 2006, and was originally a part of al-Queda.  The current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, took over control after Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in 2010.  The group then absorbed another militant group in Syria in 2014 and changed their name to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in April 2013.  In February 2014, al-Queda renounced all association with ISIS in due to months of infighting, and because ISIS was considered too violent. In March, ISIS started its military campaign by first taking over the Syrian city of Raqqa, and now currently controls territory in both Iraq and Syria.  ISIS continues to terrorize parts of northern and western Iraq as well as parts of Syria.

ISIL fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Image Source: ABC News, AP.

One of the unique tensions with ISIS is that many of their fundamental principles go beyond those held by other Muslims.  ISIS believes that all of the Muslims in the world should live under one Islamic state which shall ruled by sharia rule.  The goal for ISIS is to create its own Islamic State in the region between west and northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Their ruthless tactics have not only created tensions with Western States and Syria’s President Assad, but have also created tensions with other al-Queda jihadists groups like the Jabhat al-Nusra group who is now clashing with ISIS, and starting to fight against ISIS to slow down their progress.

Despite efforts by Jabhat al-Nursa to slow progress, ISIS has continued to expand into Iraq and Syria.  They have recently taken Mosul, Iraq’s second most populated city, as well as an oil field in Syria.  Although the ISIS’ movement across the land is of significant concern to President al-Assad, the concern that impacts the U.S. is the mass casualties and humanitarian violations that ISIS commits every time it conquers another region.  Some of the crimes included killing captured Syrian soldiers, killing Kurds in Iraq, and recently the beheading of American journalist, James Foley, which occurred in Syria.  UNICEF estimated that the ISIS in now responsible for the displacement of up to 25,000 Yazidis and the death of 40 children.  As a result of the tensions in Iraq, the U.S. has lunched airstrikes into Iraq to slow ISIS’s progress, but have yet to launch airstrikes into Syria because of the potential political and legal repercussions.

One of issues with the U.S. potentially deciding to launch airstrikes in Syria is the potential legal ramifications.  One of the issues is that Syria may not be able to fight the ISIS on their own, because their counter-attack is based only a mutual dislike of the ISIS by certain groups, like Jabhat al-Nursa.   At this point, the U.S. does not have a stated policy on how they will proceed, but some now believe that the U.S. may choose to use force for Syria.  One of the questions for an U.S. action may be whether there is a justification for use of force under international law.   Part of the justification may be that the U.S. is using the threat to come to the aid of Iraq.  Another justification would be to either use a Security Council Resolution or receive consent from Assad to use force.              Depending on the political ramifications, the U.S. may decide to use either justification.

At this point there situation appears to be at a standstill.  President Obama appears to be weighing the potential of expanding the airstrikes into Syria.  Part of the issue would be if the U.S. decides to strike that action could be considered an act of aggression against Syria.  On the other hand, if Obama decides to work with President Assad it may be considered an act of support of Assad, something which could be difficult considering the allegations the Assad has been turning a blind eye to al-Queda fighters using Syria as a base camp for training.  Regardless of what President Obama decides, this is an issue that will continue to be prevalent in world news until resolved.  The key will be resolving the issue in manner that both protects the citizens at risk and ensures that tensions between the U.S. between Syria do not rise more than that in a manner that is legally justifiable.

Katelin Wheeler is a 4L at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and Business Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

 

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Katelin KnoxComments (0)


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